Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Nonna used To Say...

Got Agita? It's Not What You Eat; It's What Eats You



Friday, February 21, 2014

Rocky Road Cracker Bark


Retirement is fattening. It is a constant round of eating out, taking in, cooking, BBQs & noshing.  Residents of Victoria Gardens hail from every state in the Union, so imagine the array of dishes at a pot luck!  A few of my friends have a "specialty"....Rox is chili, Sue pizzelles, and Vicky is known for her Rocky Road Cracker Bark. It so darn easy and so darn good. When I know Vicky is attending a party, I keep my fingers crossed that she'll whip up a batch of this chocolate candy. I've tweaked the original recipe with add-ins to make this a delightful combination of sweet, salty, tart and crunchy. It'll have your taste buds dancin'. If you enjoy a toffee flavored candy, then you'll enjoy this confection.
A couple of tips: 1) Whisk the butter and sugar for the three minutes it is boiling. 2) Use a standard size baking sheet/pan not larger. 3) have all ingredients chopped and ready to go. 4) don't add more sugar.
Don't worry that the butter/sugar mixture isn't spread out enough, once it goes into the oven it will melt even more.
This is Vicky's basic recipe. It's delicious even before adding the extra ingredients. I love dark chocolate, but use milk chocolate if you like. How about tiny pieces of pretzel sticks? A dash of cayenne pepper? butterscotch chips? The salt topped Saltines gives this a pinch of salt taste, but how about Ritz crackers? Hmmm salty and buttery. Or Graham crackers for more of a S'more taste. Just about everything goes. Having said that...sometimes less is more. Enjoy and thanks Vicky!

Rocky Road Cracker Bark


1 sleeve of Saltine Crackers
1 bag chocolate morsels
1 cup brown sugar
2 sticks butter
Add ins: 1/2 c dried cranberries, 1 c mini marshmallows, 1/2 c chopped nuts
 Preheat oven at 400 degrees.
Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with PAM. Line pan with entire sleeve of saltine crackers.
In sauce pan combine brown sugar and butter. Bring to a boil, then boil while whisking for 3 minutes. Pour butter/sugar mixture over the crackers. Spread. Put pan in oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and put chocolate morsels on top and quickly spread morsels with a spatula. While still hot- top evenly with add-ins. Refrigerate until candy has hardened, peel back foil and break into pieces.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Mexican Stuffed Peppers: Crock Pot Cookin'




Just got this recipe from my lovely niece, Eugenia. She's a newly-wed and trying out new recipes that will please her husband, Tom.  With single digit temps in PA a crock pot provides a hot comfort meal. Eugenia isn't only a good cook but a talented photographer. Check out Eugenia Photography
The recipe below is in her exact words...couldn't be easier.  Looks like our family has another great "chef" in the making. Thanks, Eugenia...& keep sharing your recipes! 

Crock Pot Mexican Stuffed Bell Peppers

Ingredients:
4 bell peppers
1 pound ground chicken (You don't have to brown it first)
1 small can of enchilada sauce
1 cup of rice (I used  cooked Mexican rice)
Packet of taco seasoning 


So I chopped the tops off of the peppers, cleaned them out, poured about half cup of water in the crock pot, and nestled the four of them in there. Then I mixed the rest of the ingredients together in a big bowl (I only used almost half of the small can of enchilada sauce) Stuffed those pepper babies and sprinkled shredded cheese over top! Then cooked on low for six hours.
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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Chicken, Cabbage & Cannellini Beans


One skillet meals are the best. This one is easy, but has several steps.  Don't let this stop you from trying it. It's not a difficult recipe....you just need patience. On a health note, no one wants undercooked chicken. Every, and I mean every, component of this meal is super delicious. It has many taste layers that will have your mouth in joy mode.

I have no idea how this recipe came to be...I just know I've been cooking it forever, it seems. And when I tell my hubby that this is dinner tonight, he sighs and his eyes glaze over. Okay, so I went too far to make my point. But you get my point, right?

I only use skinless chicken thighs. If in a hurry use boneless, but there is nothing more tasty then bone-in. My secret ingredient is kielbasa. It adds a smoky flavor that makes this dish a winner. Cabbage...I'm a savoy fan and only savoy. That's the one with the crinkly leaves. It's sweeter and more tender than the regular cabbage. BUT, if you can't find savoy, go ahead and use green cabbage. To make this dish more "stick-to-your-ribs" I prepare just a 1/2 cup of rice and add that at the end of cook time. And, oh, a half a can of cannellini beans go in at the very end so they don't get mushy. Just a bit of patience and you will be rewarded with a keeper for sure.

Yes, you can leave out the kielbasa...sigh, but you are doing this meal an injustice. Go for turkey kielbasa if the real thing is a deal breaker.

Chicken, Cabbage & Cannellini Beans: the 3 C 1 skillet meal

6 skinless chicken thighs, cleaned of excess fat
1/2 ring of kielbasa, any flavor, cut in circles
1 good size head of savory cabbage, rinsed
1/2 can of cannellini beans, drained
1/2 cup of rice, cooked
onion powder
garlic powder
salt
oil, canola & extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c chicken broth (optional)

Season chicken with salt, onion powder & garlic powder. Set aside. Put a drop of canola oil in a large skillet and heat. Add kielbasa and brown circles on both sides. Remove to a platter. Don't drain skillet. In same skillet, heat two tablespoons of canola oil until screaming hot. Brown chicken on both sides until deep, golden brown. Remove to same platter as cooked kielbasa.
While chicken is cooking, core & cut cabbage into manageable pieces (not too small).

Put half the cabbage in skillet. Drizzle with olive oil & season with a bit of salt, onion & garlic powder. Let the cabbage begin to cook, (stir so it doesn't stick) then add the rest of the cabbage to the skillet. Season the same as first batch. Go easy on salt...you can always add more at the end.
Once cabbage begins to wilt, cover the skillet. When the cabbage starts to look clear, add the chicken and kielbasa. Mix well. Add a drizzle more olive oil if it looks dry. Cover.

Meanwhile: cook rice according to directions. I use a 1/2 cup of rice to 1 3/4 cup of water and a dash of salt and drop of oil. Put in microwave for 7 min on high. Stir. Then cook another 7 minutes.

Add cooked rice to chicken mixture about 5 min before chicken is cooked through and cabbage is soft and clear. Chicken is done when pierced and juice runs clear. Just at the end of cooking process, add the cannellini beans. Cover and heat through.Taste a leaf...add more seasonings if desired.

*if you like a meal with some "sauce" add a 1/2 cup of broth when the cabbage is almost cooked.

No need for a salad. But soft rolls like King's Hawaiian sweet rolls or corn bread go well with this.
Serves 3-4

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Witch Finger Cookies


Yeah, yeah, I know...Nanette doesn't do Halloween. Blame it on being a senior in an Adult Community...reliving my childhood. I posted a recipe for Green Monster Cookies a few days ago because I was bringing treats to the Divas Halloween Party. Friday night was the Community Halloween Party and I was asked to bake Crooked Witch Fingers. At first, I thought it was for the dessert table, but found out they were props for the Haunted House. The Victoria Gardens Haunted House is one of the best I've ever experienced. Kudos to Shari who spends hours researching, building, directing to make this a yearly success. Yes, she has lots of help and dozens of volunteer horror characters, but she is the force behind the whole event. Girl Power. My contribution to this year's Haunted House were the Witch Fingers. I didn't actually see the ghoul chomping on them because I was too busy screaming and covering my eyes!
Back to the cookie....The dough is a bit finicky. Once the ingredients are combined, you must refrigerate it. I made the dough, wrapped it in plastic wrap and chilled for most of the day, baking the fingers in the evening. Cut off a chunk, then rewrap and put in the freezer as you shape the fingers. Once in the oven, rotate the trays after 10 minutes. Don't let the fingers get too brown. The recipe should yield 60 but I got 55 out of it.

Witch Fingers
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
55-60 whole almonds
1 (.75oz) tube red decorating gel

Combine flour, baking powder, & salt in a bowl. Set aside.
Combine butter, sugar, egg, almond & vanilla extracts in a mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer and gradually add the dry ingredients as you continue to blend. Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour.  
Set oven temperature to 325 degrees.
Remove a small amount of dough from the dough ball. Replace remaining dough in refrigerator or freezer. Roll dough into thin rope shapes. Press almond into the tip. Squeeze cookie near the tip and again near the center of each finger to give the impression of knuckles.  Make slashes into the dough at knuckles. Arrange on lightly greased cookie sheets. Put cookie sheet in refrigerator for ten minutes to help retain shape when baking. Bake 20-25 minutes, rotating at ten minutes. Before fingers cool completely, remove the almond from end of finger and squeeze a small amount of red gel into cavity. Replace the almond to ooze gel out around the tip. Add red gel anywhere on finger for a "bloodier" look, if desired. 
originally found on allrecipes.com under Spooky Witches' Fingers


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Hubby & Me as a Bumble Bee & Beekeeper




Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Green Monster Cookies

 
Anyone who knows me knows I'm not a big fan of Halloween. In the autumn I look forward to Thanksgiving. Lots of good food rather than sweets and a reason to give thanks for all the blessings of the year...especially Our Bounty! Yet, anyone who knows me knows I love to cook and bake, so any excuse, even Halloween is a fitting excuse.

Recently, I became interested in Pinterest. I tried to hold out and ignore joining, but a site with tons of tried recipes, fun crafts and fashion...well I'm a sucker for. So, I've given in. And I love it!! I have to time myself so I don't spend hours on this fabulous site.

I found this recipe on Pinterest under the title: Ooey Gooey Monster Eye Cookies. The only change was from vanilla extract to a teaspoon of almond extract. I wanted more of a flavor to the cookie. It is ooey gooey and sweet. I tasted the cream cheese batter and it wasn't sweet (enough) but I restrained from adding sugar and glad I did. Once the chilled batter is rolled in the powdered sugar...the cookie is sweet enough. Do put the batter in the fridge like the recipe calls for, even put it back between baking batches. My cookies took 14 minutes to bake not the suggested 10-12. So check on that. Also, the eyes can be found in most department stores like WalMart, or Craft Centers with a baking dept., the brand is Wilton. I used 2 packages. The original color is neon green, but I used regular green food coloring. It's an easy recipe. Kids will enjoy baking this, too. Original recipe found at: lilluna.com/gooey-monster-eye-cookies/

So why is a senior with no grandkids (yet) baking monster face cookies?  Well...my community has a Divas club...yes, Divas. It's really an excuse to get together with a group of fabulous women and well....coffee klatch. We have a wonderful Women's Club which works hard for local charities...very worth while. But Divas is just plain old fun. Two women host the monthly "meeting". They come up with a theme...there's snacks and lots of laughter. The theme could be Hollywood, Mother's Tribute, Snowpersons, Valentine's, etc. Sometimes there's a demonstration of a particular craft, or a trivia game, stuff like that. We wear pink, yeah a girlie color, but there's a strong sense of community, womanhood and camaraderie. It's good for the body as well as the soul. The October meeting email read: "Wear your Witches Hat! And bring a spooky story to read aloud. Refreshments will be served." So I will attend in a Good Witches Hat and wearing white, of course...oh, and a pink boa. I'll arrive with a scary story to read and....green monster cookies. It will be a Boo-tiful Divas Gathering.

Green Monster Cookies


1 box Yellow Cake Mix
1 stick butter, softened
1 8oz bar cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
powdered sugar
green food coloring
candy eyes (bloodshot eyes more spooky)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter, almond extract, egg and cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in cake mix. Add green food coloring a drop at a time until you get the desired hue. Chill for 30 minutes. Roll a teaspoon full of batter into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 12-14 minutes. While warm press a candy eye into center of each cookie. Makes approx.4 doz.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Humble Crock Pot Beef Stew


 
A crock pot or slow cooker is one of the most useful kitchen appliances invented. A busy mom, an in -the-workforce gal, a newbie chef...whomever, will save time and stress once she gets the hang of it. Don't keep this appliance in a back cupboard...keep it where you can readily get your hands on it. Everything from soup to dessert can be cooked in a crock pot.

Coming home on a cold winter's night to a pot of chili, soup or stew is one of life's delights. On a blistering hot day, you can cook anything your heart desires and not crank up the temperature in your home. The latest and greatest of the slow cookers now allow you to brown your meat in the pot, add additional ingredients, press a button and start the slow cooking process. Though, I don't always brown my roasts or stew meats before placing them in a crock pot, I will admit that doing so does add a more flavorful "home-cooked" taste to the meal. Now that it's more convenient to do so, it would be foolish not to.

My household consists of two, so it's not imperative that I have a large crock pot BUT I do. A five or six quart pot will hold a sizable roast or several pounds of stew meat and all the veggies. This makes it possible to either make extra for freezing or enough to send over to my son and his wife whose work day often extends into dinner time. Having a smaller pot is a good idea, too. This is perfect for split pea soup or tomato meat sauce for two or three.

Don't hesitate to get everything ready mid-day or early eve and hit the "on" switch before you go to bed. The meal is ready when you awake. Let it cool, then put the ceramic section of the pot that's filled with your meal in your refrigerator for supper or package the meal in containers.

I have found over the years that recipes I cooked a long time on the stovetop esp. ones that I had to keep a sharp eye on....stirring on a regular basis, were a snap to do in my crock pot. Not only did the recipe taste just as good, but because of the convenience-those "special dinners" were enjoyed more often. One that comes to mind is a specialty called Genovese, an Italian onion and pot roast meal.

An all-time favorite is the humble Beef Stew. I hope you enjoy my version of it. A few added ingredients make this basic recipe more hearty and extra tasty. As the stew cools, the gravy will thicken and be less "soupy". Be sure to serve with hot biscuits and a salad.


 Humble Beef Stew

4lbs stew meat, cubed
1/4 cup flour
10oz baby carrots
8-10 red potatoes, quartered
6 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, cut in slices
1 envelope of dry onion soup
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 can beef gravy
2 Tablespoons parsley
2 Tablespoons flour mixed
in 1/2 c of cold water until
all lumps dissolve
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons Gravy Master or
Kitchen Bouquet (optional)
salt

Place cubed beef in a large bowl and add 1/4 cup of flour and garlic powder. Mix well. Set aside. Place onion, red potatoes, carrots & mushrooms on the bottom of crock pot. Top vegetables with cubed beef. Sprinkle dry onion soup over meat. Combine the broth and parsley with the flour that has been mixed with cold water. Blend. Add Gravy Master (optional) into broth mixture. Stir. Pour mixture into pot. Add beef gravy. Blend into meat & vegetables keeping most of the vegetables at the bottom of pot. Add salt if desired. Be sure lid is secure. Cook on low 10 hours.

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Salmon Francaise



Yes, Salmon...not chicken or veal.
I have nothing against Chicken or Veal Francaise. It's a wonderful recipe. "Francaise" is French, but it seems ever so popular in many Italian restaurants.  It's not a difficult recipe, though there are dozens and dozens of them from which to choose. All start with dusting (2 lbs) of chicken cutlets (pounded thin) in flour, dipping them in (2) beaten eggs then frying in oil until golden brown- then the differences begin.... most believe that flour such as Wondra is a good thickener. Others swear by cornstarch.  But a purist would tell you...no flour.  You see, if you add cold butter (1/2 stick), a tablespoon pat at a time, to the white wine that has been reduced -the sauce will thicken. You do this by removing the hot pan from the burner and melting the butter. Place it back on burner if the pan cools and no longer melts the butter. On and off...on and off. So...remove the fried chicken to a platter lined with paper towels. Cover platter with foil to keep chicken warm. Then drain the excess oil from the pan. Saute a chopped shallot in pan and deglaze with (1 cup) of good white wine scraping together any brown bits. Reduce until it looks like a light syrup. Whisk in the butter as I previously explained until smooth. Add capers (1 T ), juice of 3 lemons (or less to taste), and fresh parsley. Some love a 1/4 cup of heavy cream added but that is truly an optional ingredient. That's all the best Francaise recipe requires. Note: if sauce is warmed too much, it will separate.

A true foodie is always looking for a new recipe, a way to tweak an old favorite or whatever it takes to satisfy our food lust.  So there I was in my favorite supermarket perusing the shelves when I saw a display case with bright pink salmon in it. Hmmmm, I hadn't had salmon in a while... and what was that jar of sauce on the shelf above the cold compartment? I picked it up. Gia Russa Francaise Simmer Sauce. Huh, never heard of it. I'm always suspicious of jarred sauces, so I studied the ingredients....actually figuring I'd see a whole bunch of things I couldn't pronounced. Huh, again. Butter, white wine, garlic, lemon, chicken & vegetable stock, cornstarch, milk, parsley and a few spices I knew well. Huh. Pretty much all the ingredients in a Francaise recipe.

Then I noticed a recipe card....Mustard Dill Crusted Salmon. Now if a recipe is going to use a Francaise sauce why not call it Whatever Francaise? Well, maybe, not everyone is as familiar with this wine-lemon sauce as I first thought. Could be, right? So, I bought all the ingredients on the card, even for the recommended Tater-tot side dish, and left ever so happy.

The recipe was easy. Almost as easy as scratch Francaise. It was very tasty...buttery, lemony, with a hint of mustard and dill. There was only 210 calories per serving....very low especially if you skip the tater-tots and add sauteed veggies and a salad. With such a low calorie count....splurge with a warm, crusty loaf of bread.

If you can't find Gia Russa Francaise Simmer Sauce and really, really want to try this delicious fish dish...use my "Purist" Francaise Sauce above and substitute salmon (no frying) for the chicken. Don't use capers or parsley and definitely use the heavy cream (more if you want extra sauce). To cut cream calories...consider some vegetable or chicken broth instead of extra cream. Always salt & pepper to taste, if desire.

Salmon Francaise

2 Tablespoons butter or herb garlic butter
2 Tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons spicy brown mustard
1 Tablespoon Dill relish
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 jar Gia Russa Francaise Simmer Sauce
2 salmon fillet about 1 1/2lb. skin removed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Chop chives and set aside

Stir mustard, dill relish, breadcrumbs, chives into melted butter.  Blend well.
Pour about a cup of the Francaise sauce into a 13X9 baking dish and spread it in the dish. Top with salmon. Pour the rest of the sauce over the salmon, then top with the buttered breadcrumb mixture. Bake for 20 minutes or until opaque and flaky. Serves 2 or 4 depending on size of salmon fillet.
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